Church of Scotland 'is not in crisis'

The Church of Scotland has insisted it is not in crisis despite traditionalist congregations threatening to leave following its vote on gay ordinations.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Church of Scotland said the present situation was "nothing like" the Disruption of 1843, when a third of ministers left because of a dispute over the Church's relationship with the state.  

"While we would be saddened by the departure of any of our ministers and members, the Church is not in crisis," the spokesperson said.

Several congregations are to vote on leaving the Kirk after its General Assembly in May voted to uphold historic doctrine on same-sex relationships while pursuing a policy of permitting individual congregations to choose ministers in same-sex relationships if they so wish.

The Reverend Andrew Downie of Benbecula Church of Scotland has resigned and his congregation is to vote on whether it will follow.

The Lewis Church of Scotland Presbytery, in the Western Isles, and Logie and St John's in Dundee are also considering leaving.

In a statement the Lewis CoS Presbytery expressed its "total opposition to the selection, training and ordination for the ministry of word and sacrament and the diaconate of those in same sex civil partnerships".

"As a Presbytery, we strongly support the Church's affirmation of historic and current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality," the statement read.

"The Presbytery of Lewis continues to affirm that the Word of God is the supreme rule of faith and life and believes that any proposal which leads to the selection, training and ordination of those in same sex relationships is contrary to the revealed will of God in Scripture.

"Presbytery is deeply saddened by the fact that this matter has caused division within the Church of Scotland and within congregations.

"Presbytery respects the right of individual congregations to review their relationship with the Church of Scotland but urges its people to maintain the unity of their fellowship."

Logie and St John's Dundee said in an announcement that it had "firmly decided" to find an appropriate means for the congregation to leave the Church of Scotland.

An advisory group will be established by the church comprising members of the Kirk Session and the congregation with a remit to consult with other churches that are considering leaving, draw on the experience of churches that have already left, and address the practical implications of leaving the Church of Scotland and creating a new congregation.

Logie and St John's said it would continue seeking to be a "a Christ-centred, Bible-based, prayerful fellowship, characterised by a growing knowledge of God, real and accountable relationships with each other, and vital friendships with others".

"We ask for your prayers and for your patience as we seek the way forward," the announcement read.

The Church of Scotland said presbyteries were holding conversations with fewer than 10 of the Kirk's 1,400 congregations over the issue.

It has expressed its desire for these conversations to be "gracious, constructive and respectful of Church law, civil law and charity law".

"The vast majority of Church of Scotland ministers and members are committed to the Church and willing to work out, over the next couple of years, how we live with difference. They see the recent decision of the General Assembly as a vote for the peace and unity of the Church," the spokesperson said.

"However, it is not surprising that a small number of ministers and members reacted immediately to decisions taken at the General Assembly. There has always been a variety of views on the matter of same-sex relationships and the ministry and we are aware that some of our ministers and members feel that a compromise is not possible.

"The work of the Church of Scotland – preaching the Good News and caring for the vulnerable the length and breadth of the country - continues unabated."